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Travel Diary: SULSESC trip to Sunderland

This is the diary of how 5 of their members (Andy Skeels, Andy Theaker, Chris Vaughan, Neil Wright, and Max Bell) realised it was *significantly* cheaper to fly to Sunderland, than get the train. So guess what they did? They flew!

Here’s how they all get on, as told by one of their number Max Bell;

  • 5:30AM.

The first alarm of the morning goes, and you’re filled with the most dangerous thing of them all, on a long away day… Hope! It’s never the failure that kills you, it’s the hope.

You know you’re setting off too early in the morning, when you see the last night-bus trundle past you, going the other way. I once left work so late in Scunny, that the milkman drove past me… The night-bus is very much the London version of that!

  • 6AM

They might be both in London, but as the crow flies my flat is 27 miles away from Heathrow Airport. Hence having to set off at daft o’clock in the morning… Thankfully not all of our party are as daft – so some are still in bed at this point.

And because it’s a Sunday, the tube doesn’t start early enough for myself and another member. So it’s time to get the bus into Central London and chance our arms from there.

Anybody want to know what the view from a London bus stop looks like at 6AM on a Sunday morning? A little something like this…Almost quiet and picturesque!

  • 7:00AM

By now, we’re all very much on our way to our agreed meeting of 7:30 in the Airport. The first yawns of the day start kicking in. The first WhatsApp message start getting fired off. Maybe getting the Train wouldn’t have been such a bad idea after all?

Despite going exactly the same way (North Greenwich -> Green Park -> Heathrow Airport), Vaughny and Bell managed to get separate tubes. Chairman Neil Wright made the wise decision to kip closer to Heathrow overnight, whilst the 2 Andys live practically a stone’s throw away from the airport!

You know you’re setting off far too early, when even the Tube is deserted. Did nobody hear of the cheap deals British Airways were knocking off?

  • 7:30AM

We all somehow stagger through security on time (ish), and in one piece… Despite Chairman Neil Wright’s best attempts to ring Mr Bell when the security guard was getting all touchy feely in the scanner!

I wonder what the security guards’ reactions would have been to a chat about how Scunthorpe United would cope without Funso Ojo? (Here’s a quick spoiler – we wouldn’t!)

  • 8:00AM

Thankfully though, we are all re-united in the natural habitat of Wetherspoons. Who would have guessed? No time for beers just yet, but certainly for 5 fry-ups and some much needed caffeine!

Much laughing and joking is happening. Mostly about how the darts team will shape up for the new season. Thankfully, it’s very much the taking part (and drinking) that counts!

Now seemed like as good a time as any to take a good selfie. To you know, act as a cherished memory and proof that we were all there, on this “epic” adventure. Which would have been fine – had yours truly been able to count to 5!

Sorry guys…. And especially sorry to Andy Skeels for somehow managing to miss him out. My bad!

  • 9:20AM

After wolfing down our collective breakfasts and Tea / Coffee / Hot Chocolate (delete as appropriate), it’s time to race to the departure gates and get on the plane.

Little did we realise, but we’d actually bought our passports for no good reason. No cabin crew or airport security staff asked us for our passports, or even any other form of ID at any point. Could have got there and back with a library card!

Owing to British Airways being ridiculous, and the joys of online check-in, we weren’t all sat together. Time to get comfy, get some kip and dream of a last-minute Josh Morris winner!

Also – who on Earth knew that you could sponsor the outside of an airport? Makes sponsoring Scunny’s kit look like a bargain I suppose.

  • 10:15AM

By some magic of science, we arrived at Newcastle International Airport less than an hour after we had set off. It would have taken us 4 times as long (and cost us twice as much), to do so on the train – rather than the plane…

Sadly, the 5 of us were the only Scunny fans on the plane – although 1 rogue Sunderland fan was trying to keep a low profile, but Chairman Wright had clocked him in Terminal 5!

Knowing we were in the vicinity before most fans from Scunthorpe (including all the coaches), had even set off was a bit of a weird feeling… More time for drinking I suppose!

  • 10:45AM

Thankfully, Newcastle Airport is significantly less busy than Heathrow. We don’t have to go through security again and were welcome to the North East like celebrities. Quite right too!

In what felt like no time at all, we were through the airport and making our way to the Metro platform. A halfway mix between trams and an underground – it’s a great little local transport system that linked the airport directly to Sunderland and the Stadium of Light…

All we had to do was meet a local friend of SULSESC en-route, cough up £5, and it would take us straight there! Oh, and fill in Mr Vaughan’s crossword. What’s 2 words, 5 and 6 letters, for a US Marines Regiment? Green Berets of course!

  • 11:30AM

After a failed team attempt to find Chris Vaughan’s missing contact lens – it’s time to go our separate ways. Rumours are abound that Max has a non-SULSESC friend to meet in the pub. Boo!

But now that we have reached the promised land of Sunderland, the local Specsavers comes to the rescue. No photos of this momentous moment sadly!

This is when the pre-match nerves begin to hit you, when the pubs begin to creak open, and you can smell the pies, see the stadium… Had we known – it might have been best to not leave the pub!

  • 2:00PM

Well, this was when we knew the inevitable fate that awaited us – when the Starting XIs were released. McArdle and Ojo not fit enough to start, and the most inexperienced Back 4 & GK combination to play for Scunthorpe in donkey’s years…

On the upside though, yours truly ended up sharing the wisdom as part of the official Sunderland ‘Fan Zone’ alongside the likes of the ‘Roker Report’, as the noted Scunthorpe guest.

The fan-zone was certainly a good idea and could heartily recommend other clubs copying it as a good way to involve families and children in the pre-match atmosphere!

  • 3:00PM – 3:45PM

Well, that was a bloody disaster wasn’t it? 3-0 down, and even the referee was rubbish. The less said about it the better.

At least the view was good though eh? A genuinely impressive following of nearly 1,400 Iron fans – and to say it was disappointing – doesn’t do it justice.

  • 3:45PM – 4:00PM

Well, at least we stopped conceding for 15 minutes eh? Every cloud has a silver lining and all that!

And of course, one of the SULSESC crew did the Crossbar Challenge out on the pitch. Missed by a whisker apparently, not that we could see him!

  • 4:00PM – 4:45PM

A bit of a non-event wasn’t it? Hey, at least we hadn’t flown over 600 round miles to see it! Oh hang on…

But you know, we drew the 2nd half! And maybe the Fleetwood and Barnsley games won’t be as bad. We can dream eh?

  • 5PM

Our flight back to London wasn’t until 8:15PM, which meant that we had at least an hour to kill before even needing to travel back to Newcastle Airport…

So what did we do? Go to the pub of course! Drink 1 to celebrate, and drink 2 to drown your sorrows!

It is also definitely worth saying that Sunderland is one of the friendlies places we have ever visited supporting the Iron – which is hopefully encapsulated in this Twitter thread below…

  • 7PM

After lengthy and enjoyable spells in various high-quality establishments, we are all re-united (by chance on the Metro). The same service, at the same time, and even getting on the same door.

It was almost as if the shared experience of the Scunthorpe defeat linked us all some way! It had been a great day out despite the loss – but even the best things come to an end. And let’s face it, supporting the Iron (especially in exile), has never just been about the winning!!

  • 8:15PM

Finally, it’s time to head back down South – once more on British Airways. The plane is almost entirely full – but nobody else apart from the 5 of us, seems aware of the momentous defeat that had taken place up in Sunderland!

We’re once more split up, so it’s time to be left alone with one’s thoughts from the game – and the vague hope of getting some long-overdue sleep.

Dreaming of dodgy selfies, praying for a more experienced defence, our retro Scunthorpe tops, and the return of Funso Ojo more like!

  • 9:15PM

An hour later, by which time we hope that all other Scunthorpe fans are very much tucked up in bed / down the pub – we land back where it all started 13 hours ago. Certainly a unique way of doing an away game eh?

Alright, it might not have been the most efficient or good for the environment, and it was an awfully long-way to go and watch us get spanked 3-0 (should have been 5 or 6)… But that’s all part of the fun!

Despite living in London, I only missed 2 away games in the league last season – and one of them was only because the NHS wouldn’t discharge me from hospital in time to get to Southend!

So when you’re supporting the Iron from exile, even somewhere as busy and relatively easy to reach as London, the social side of football is more important than ever.

And on that note – it was time for the 5 of us to go our separate ways. Some of us to the tube (different lines), some others to the car-park and gratefully received lifts home… But all of us, to some well deserved sleep and work in the morning!

SULSESC is the Scunthorpe United London & South East Supporters Club. You can join them by e-mailing a.skeels1@btinternet.com and follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sulsesc

Up the Iron!


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Written by Max Bell

Scunthorpe United Fan and match summariser for BBC Radio Humberside.

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